Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

T. rex's big tail was its key to speed and hunting prowess

Date:
November 16, 2010
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Tyrannosaurus rex was far from a plodding Cretaceous era scavenger whose long tail only served to counterbalance the up-front weight of its freakishly big head. T. rex's athleticism (and its rear end) has now been given a makeover. New research shows that powerful tail muscles made the giant carnivore one of the fastest moving hunters of its time.

Rendering of T. Rex tail.
Credit: iStockphoto

Tyrannosaurus rex was far from a plodding Cretaceous era scavenger whose long tail only served to counterbalance the up-front weight of its freakishly big head.

T. rex's athleticism (and its rear end) has been given a makeover by University of Alberta graduate student Scott Persons. His extensive research shows that powerful tail muscles made the giant carnivore one of the fastest moving hunters of its time.

As Persons says, "contrary to earlier theories, T. rex had more than just junk in its trunk."

The U of A paleontology student began his research by comparing the tails of modern-day reptiles like crocodiles and Komodo dragons to T.rex's tail. Persons found for that all animals in his study, the biggest muscles in the tail are attached to upper leg bones. These caudofemoralis muscles provide the power stroke allowing fast forward movement.

But Persons found T.rex had one crucial difference in its tail structure.

The tails of both T.rex and modern animals are given their shape and strength by rib bones attached to the vertebrae. Persons found that the ribs in the tail of T. rex are located much higher on the tail. That leaves much more room along the lower end of the tail for the caudofemoralis muscles to bulk-up and expand. Without rib bones to limit the size of the caudofemoralis muscles, they became a robust power-plant enabling T.rex to run.

Persons extensive measurements of T.rex bones and computer modeling shows previous estimates of the muscle mass in the dinosaur's tall were underestimated by as much as 45 per cent.

That led many earlier T. rex researchers to believe the animal lacked the necessary muscle mass for running which in turn limited its hunting skills. That lack of speed cast T. rex in the role of a scavenger only able to survive by feeding on animals killed by other predators.

As for an T. rex's exact speed, researchers say that is hard to measure, but Persons says it could likely run down any other animal in its ecosystem.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. W. Scott Persons, Philip J. Currie. The Tail of Tyrannosaurus: Reassessing the Size and Locomotive Importance of the M. caudofemoralis in Non-Avian Theropods. The Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1002/ar.21290

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "T. rex's big tail was its key to speed and hunting prowess." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115131127.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2010, November 16). T. rex's big tail was its key to speed and hunting prowess. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115131127.htm
University of Alberta. "T. rex's big tail was its key to speed and hunting prowess." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101115131127.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins